The Agony and the Ecstasy

I have frequently noted on my trip that, for whatever reason, a sense of displacement or emotional fatigue had failed to take root. As I progressed through France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, England, Ireland, Italy, and finally to Turkey, never did I reach a point where I truly wished that the comfort of my home was within reach. Sure, in Italy I got a bit burnt out on being alone, but my trip is like a program and by that point the program was only halfway through its course. 

I prefer not to be the kind of traveler who has a detailed itinerary for every place that he visits, or even necessarily any place at all. It is my guaranteed movement from this place to the next that guarantees any type of action within the present. I find this gives me enough spontaneity to enjoy my current locale and generally reduces the stress that can make a return from some vacations a vacation in itself. Relaxed enjoyment of a place is my goal, not a collection of sites seen. 

Thanks to my leisurely travel program (if you can describe 14 cities in 40 days “leisurely”) I’d happily managed to prevent any type of emotional fatigue from setting in. Once I arrived at the site the daily requirement of our work was enough to keep me preoccupied that days pass qyickly with no relevance to the outside world. I can tell you that today is a Monday only because Monday is our day off. Otherwise I would be only vaguely aware of the day or the date at best. Relating to the outside world here can be a bit challenging, stemming from many reasons like our investment in our work, limited internet connection, and complete temporal detachment. I can normally gauge my time zones well enough to know when to expect a reply from a friend in the United Kingdom vs one in Australia, now I couldn’t tell you who was likely asleep or awake. 

Yesterday was, by far, the most emotionally taxing day since I left New York. Coincidentally it also aligned with the two-month date of my departure. Having slept horribly the night before (you’d think hard work in the sun from 7 AM-5 PM would be enough to ensure a full night’s sleep but it’s surprising the thoughts and knots that can wake you up), I woke up in a vacant mood. Some days in the trench are full of terribly exciting discoveries. Some days are spent facilitating the work that makes those discoveries possible. And some days are spent facilitating your facilitating. Yesterday was definitely one of those days: the morning passed slowly as I have to work on one part of my trench before I can return to the more interesting parts. Slow mornings do little to assuage foul moods, and by lunchtime my afternoon nap was much-needed. 

The afternoon was actually very promising, and it looked like a lot of hard work was about to make our job significantly easier, but that sadly was not the case. Watching hard work fall apart is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. To anyone else it might have been just an inconvenience, but this is my team, and my men worked hard, and circumstance dictated that hard work to be null and void. It was eerie how silent the trenches were that afternoon. Morale had completely collapsed and I felt in quite a bind. I wanted to cheer up my men but my Turkish is far from that level of capability. I suddenly understand the stress that being in a supervisory position can bring. The foul mood sank back in and we did the best that we could muster, but by the end of the day all I could think was “thank god tomorrow is Monday.” 

Yesterday was really taxing on a personal level and it made me appreciate and miss all of the people I would normally reach out to in these situations who were unfortunately incommunicable. But half of the reason to leave home is to appreciate it more when you return. I appreciate it more today than I did two days ago.

Juliana CoxComment